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Local Doctor, Nutritionist Partner to Combat Obesity

Dr. Amy Salerno and Stephanie Schwartz are working together to host a workshop for local families to prepare healthier meals.

In New York City, Mayor Bloomberg cited "portion control" as a reason for supporting a ban on 16 oz. sodas to fight obesity, a top health concern in America.

In Northern Westchester, Dr. Amy Salerno, Carmen Abril and Stephanie Schwartz, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., are also focusing on portion control as a way to combat the prevalence of obesity in young children, particularly in local Spanish-speaking families.

They're teaming up to give famlilies guidance on healthy meals with particular attention paid to the sizes of snacks and meals appropriate for young children.

"We are really jumping on this," said Salerno, a Bedford resident with a ten-year family practice on Smith Avenue in Mt. Kisco that draws patients from as far north as Brewster and Katonah, to Bedford Hills, Mt. Kisco and towns south of the area.

"Parents are craving advice. And I see new patients, some that have just arrived from over the border, come in slender—only to return a year later overweight. So it's really an issue here," said Salerno, whose career spans almost 30 years and includes a stint as an emergency room physician at Northern Westchester Hospital.

Carmen Abril, office manager for Salerno's practice, said this year's school physicals resulted in nearly 60 percent of children being noted as overweight, which troubled her both as a medical professional and a mother in the community.

It's an emotional issue and a serious medical concern, Salerno added.

"Children as young as age seven burst into tears in front of us when they are told they are overweight," she said.

If kids fall into the overweight category, they draw bloods to see if they have a propensity for diabetes or are at risk for high cholesterol. They also test liver function and some young children are already showing elevated liver function proteins because their diets are high in fat.

"Livers can become enlarged and fail because of fatty diets," said Salerno.

She said as follow up, she'd write notes to the family that children needed to be on diabetic diets but then later she'd hear about burgers and juice. After seeing the dramatic rise of obesity in her practice, she and Abril decided to take a more active role. 

So the pair reached out to Stefanie Schwartz, a registered dietician in Chappaqua and owner of Nutritionally Yours, a nutrition consultancy. They've set up a workshop for local families—the majority of whom are Spanish speakers—to provide ideas for culturally appropriate, healthful meals.

"We chose Stefanie because she knows the foods of many Latin countries," said Abril. "She can help incorporate some of the favorite cultural foods—often rice, beans, pasta—in the right portions."

The first session will be held on the evening of Sept. 27 for about 25 parents in Salerno's practice. Salerno, who is fluent, plans to simultaneously translate Schwartz's session into Spanish and they will also distribute written meal plans to attendees.

If there's interest, this invitation-only session will be repeated at no cost for the general public.

For her part, Schwartz said her role will be to help families learn better food choices and balance with the goal of becoming healthier—and preventing obesity.

"I will inspire, motivate, and most importantly, point to things they can change," she said. "I will go over what specific foods that are better then others, and what are the best substitutes. I will talk about the excess snacking that goes on and ways to decrease that as a family."

Schwartz said she hoped to empower attendees with information to allow them to be more confident, and establish healthier habits.

 

Dr.SusanRubin September 18, 2012 at 01:46 PM
"Livers can become enlarged and fail because of fatty diets," said Salerno. I beg to differ. Fatty non alcoholic liver disease in children is caused by high sugar diets. Things like soda, sports drinks, juice, low fat chocolate milk are big culprits in creating kids with a sweet addiction and a weight problem. In addition, food products that I like to call "baked flour" a big part of the equation: cookies, crackers, cakes & breads. Growing kids need good quality fats for optimum nervous system and hormonal balance. I hope the medical community can wake up to the fact that the real issue is sugar, not fat! Here's a great video by a pediatric endocrinologist explaining why juice and other refined carbohydrates are a really bad idea for kids. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
santa September 24, 2012 at 09:10 AM
Evidence to support the view that some obese people eat little yet gain weight due to a slow metabolism is limited on average obese people have a greater energy expenditure than their thin counterparts due to the energy required to maintain an increased body mass. Thanks. www.hcg1234.com
jessica wify October 10, 2012 at 06:57 AM
Obesity is stigmatized in much of the modern world (particularly in the Western world), though it was widely perceived as a symbol of wealth and fertility at other times in history, and still is in some parts of the world.Thanks. http://www.ipc-athletics.org/how-epr-800-works/

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